Tag: Ethiopian Revolution

Torture and Horrific Abuses in Ethiopian Prisons

By Betre Y. Getahun

Journalists, bloggers and politicians are locked in solitary confinement and subjected to torture, and various abuses  and ill-treatments at the hands of prisons’ officials in Ethiopia, A new investigation has learned.

A detailed report of the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE) has delivered a scathing assessment of Ethiopia’s treatment of prisoners, particularly political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. The report records harrowing accounts of intimidation, verbal and physical harassment and torture: “In prison, detainees are subjected to a range of ill-treatment which includes torture; harassment on grounds of ethnicity and political views; prolonged legal process; and denial of medical access which sometimes led to death.”


The Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE) is a non-governmental, non-partisan, and non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of human rights. Yesterday’s report released by this group is the first to detail the horrific torture practices of the Ethiopian regime. The investigation was conducted at the Qilinto, Maekelawi, Shewa Robit, and Zeway prisons.

The report states that the tortures are mainly practiced to extract confessions during interrogations in order to implicate detainees in an alleged crime: “It is also sometimes used as a form of punishment. Many have reported that security officers tortured them by hanging them on a ceiling, putting them in a solitary confinement for hours; beating them with sticks, electric cables, and other hard objects; or tying water bottles to men’s testicles.”

The Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE) interviewed several detainees and included these accounts in their report.

“The stories demonstrate the multi-faceted forms and attributes of the ill-treatment. Prisoners are maltreated and abused based on their ethnic identity; on alleged involvement with terrorist groups; based on their religious grounds; based on gender identity and more. This signals the seriousness and pervasiveness of the problem.” The report stated.

A 42-year old, Abebe Kasse, told to AHRE that the torture sessions began with security officers the first day I was arrested. “I was arrested on January 20, 2014, and was taken to Maekelawi. I remained at Maekelawi for more than five months and endured excruciating torture. The interrogators demanded that I tell them everything about my involvement with PG7. They injected something into my body and I passed out. When I finally woke up, some of my finger nails were gone. They later pulled out the rest of my finger- and toe nails while I was conscious. They also tied my hands and legs, tied me upside down in a freezing room located below the interrogation room, and left me there for some time. Then they came one by one and swung my body to the left and right.”


“At different times, men and women tied my feet and hands to a chair. Once a group of women came naked into the room, undressed me, and sat me naked on the chair. They chained my hands up and tied a water bottle to my testicles. Then they kept swinging the bottle to the left and right. They also did something unmentionable to me while they were taking drugs. I am now castrated, and unable to be a father.”

Abebe continues: “I was very sick for many days. They refused to provide medical treatment, alleging that as an ethnic Tigrean, I should have never been a member of a terrorist organization; therefore, denying me medical treatment was my punishment.”

Bisrat Abera is another prisoner who gave his testimony to AHRE. He is a 32 years old man who is in prison and a victims of the regime: “I was taken to Shewa Robit prison after a Qilinto fire incident…They started beating me as soon as I entered the car; they were alleging that I had killed somebody during the fire outbreak. Once we reached Shewa Robit, they took me to a room and tied my two thumbs together; then they chained my hands and put them behind my legs. Then they put a long stick between my hands and knees, and hung the stick I was hanging on, between two pillars. Then they began rotating my body against the stick; they tortured me so badly. They also electrocuted me with a cable… Later, they handcuffed me and hung me from a ceiling. They tied one of my feet against the wall and left my other foot hanging in the air, leaving a painful pressure on my foot, and then they beat me. The beating continued for three days. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and admitted to killing the person they alleged I had  killed, a crime I didn’t commit.”

This report stress that the torture of detainees in various prisons in Ethiopia have soared following the wide-scale protests in the last few years, particularly in Amhara and Oromia regions.

Under international law, torture is a serious crime under  universal jurisdiction. The United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) requires nations to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction.

The prohibition against torture in international law is, like that against slavery or genocide, absolute. Torture is impermissible under any circumstances, including war, public emergency or terrorist threat. Although the prohibition is so strong and universally accepted that it is now a fundamental principle of international law, this practice is common in Ethiopia and the lives of too many journalists, bloggers and politicians are being destroyed.

Source: Nazret



By JAMES BROOKE, Special to the New York Times
Published: March 9, 1987

Holy Cross Square has been renamed Revolution Square and is now graced with a billboard hailing Communism’s trinity: Marx, Engels and Lenin.

But across town, gleaming new Coptic crosses top the Byzantine domes of St. Michael’s Church, the largest Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the nation. Consecrated last year, St. Michael’s was built to accommodate Addis Ababa’s growing number of Christians.

Indeed, 12 years of Marxist rule appear to have barely dented Ethiopia’s 1,600-year-old attachment to Christianity.

But, religious leaders say, the revolutionary Government has manipulated the church into a powerless position similar to that of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union.

This spring, the state of religious freedom in this ancient land is likely to be debated in the United States Congress. A bill with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives would impose trade sanctions on Ethiopia for human-rights violations.

Christianity in Ethiopia dates to the third or fourth century. Attacked in later centuries by a hostile Islam, Christianity flourished in the isolation of Ethiopia’s craggy highlands.

From the rock-hewn churches and monasteries of the highlands came much of Ethiopia’s culture: a national alphabet, a 13-month calendar, a subtle poetry called kine, a tradition of illuminating religious scenes on goat skin and a body of liturgical prayers and hymns in Geez, a language kept alive only in the church.

Once nominally subordinate to the Coptic Patriarch in Alexandria, Egypt, Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church was long intertwined with the Ethiopian state. In 1959 Haile Selassie, then Ethiopia’s Emperor, furthered this alliance by engineering the election of an Ethiopian Patriarch by Ethiopian bishops.

By 1974, when the Marxist revolution toppled the monarchy, the nation’s religious divisions had changed little over the centuries. Ethiopia’s Orthodox, about 45 percent of a population of 45 million, continue to live largely in the highlands. Ethiopia’s Moslems, also about 45 percent of the population, live largely in the lowlands.

The remainder include Roman Catholics, Protestants, animists and black Jews.

Once in power, the Marxists here did not directly attack the Orthodox Church. There were few church closings and few arrests of priests. Instead, the state moved to co-opt the church.

All church lands – about 30 percent of cultivated land in Ethiopia – were nationalized.

”The Government pays us four million birr a year compensation,” Abebaw Yigzaw, general secretary to the Orthodox Church, said of the $2 million the Government pays to cover salaries of most of the clergy. Wields True Power in Church

Mr. Abebaw, a member of Ethiopia’s Communist Party, is considered the true power in the church. His previous assignment was as deputy governor of Gondar Province in a tumultuous period in the late 1970’s known as the Red Terror.

The titular head of the church, Patriarch Tekle Haimanot, is a frail, elderly man described by one priest here as a ”peasant monk.” His predecessor, a forceful man known as Archbishop Tewoflos, was ousted by the Government shortly after the revolution. He is believed to be dead.

With a weak Patriarch, Government control of the church’s finances and a long tradition of a church-state alliance, the Orthodox Church is seen here as politically neutralized.

”The church and the state are like two sides of the same page,” Mr. Abebaw said.

On state occasions, Orthodox priests regularly bless the party flag – all red except for a gold star and a small red hammer and sickle – along with Ethiopia’s national flag, a green, yellow  and  red tricolor. Critics Dealt With Swiftly

Retribution is swift for the rare religious figure who criticizes the Government. An Orthodox Bishop assigned to Jerusalem publicly attacked the Government from New York and was promptly excommunicated, with the order signed by Mr. Abebaw.

In the Soviet mold, Ethiopia’s new Constitution, adopted last month, says, ”Freedom of religion may not be exercised in a manner contrary to the interests of the state and the revolution.”

At the Soviet Embassy in Addis Ababa, Mikhail N. Bocharnikov, the press officer, noted growing ties between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthdox Church. Last month, two Ethiopian bishops attended an antiwar conference in Moscow. ”They went through the invitation of the Russian Orthodox Church,” he said. Behind-the-Scenes Pressure

Behind the scenes, the Government has discreetly sought to reduce the power of the Orthodox Church. Party members are discouraged from attending church services. Neighborhood associations often schedule mandatory political education meetings for Sunday mornings.

In the interior, the loss of rents from lands has forced many provincial priests into penury, church sources report. Visitors returning from Lalibala said that complex of rock-hewn churches dating from the eighth century was falling into disrepair.

Other religious groups have fared variously under the Marxist Government.

The long-abused Moslems now have three official religious holidays, placed on the calendar by the Government.

Protestant sects have lost several clashes with the Government. A former Baptist church here now bears a sign reading, ”Working People’s Control Committee.”

Roman Catholics have chosen a non-confrontational approach and, as a result, have retained control of their 47 health clinics and most of their 200 schools. Ethiopia’s leader, Lieut. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, has two daughters enrolled in a Catholic school here. Churches Overflow on Sunday

Despite – or maybe because of – official chilliness toward religion, churches are often overflowing on Sundays. Loudspeakers serve the overflow.

The increase in church attendance since the revolution is generally seen as a form of quiet protest. Occasionally, the protest flares into the open.

In May 1985, an angry Orthodox crowd attacked Mr. Abebaw and smashed his car when he tried to remove sacred relics from Raguel Church in the main market here. In the confusion, a priest who led the protest was shot and killed.

The Moslems ”from the market were at the edge of the crowd,” one witness, a 37-year-old Ethiopian Orthodox man, said. ”They were saying, ‘Our turn will be next.’


Source: NY times 1987